Mark Quigley’s double was not enough for Dundalk who had to come from behind for the third game running as they recorded a fourth straight draw, the Lilywhites held 2-2 by Bray Wanderers at Oriel Park on Friday evening.
Quigley put the home side in front before the quarter-hour mark as he converted from the spot, and both he and Mark Griffin had chances to extend the lead but poor finishing and a superb save denied them. Danny O’Connor then shocked the hosts in first-half injury-time before Dean Zambra put Bray in front on 52 minutes. Quigley replied within 60 seconds with his 17th goal of the season, but Bray ‘keeper Darren Quigley denied the striker a hat-trick on 76 minutes to earn his side a point.
Dundalk manager Ian Foster made three changes to the side that drew with Drogheda United seven days earlier as Dean Bennett, Jason Byrne and Keith Ward were replaced by Colin Hawkins, Nathan Murphy and Stephen Maher. For Hawkins and Murphy, it was their first appearances since before the midseason break. But it was a mix-up in the home defence that presented a bright Bray with an early opening, Conor Murphy shooting into Peter Cherrie’s arms from 18-yards. Chris Shields then rose to meet a corner but headed over. At the other end, Daniel Kearns looked to pick out Maher with a through-ball but it was cleared behind by Shane O’Connor. On eight minutes, Conor Murphy picked out Jake Kelly on the left of the box but from a good position he fired narrowly wide of the target.
Dundalk slowly grew into the game and Quigley drove a 35-yard free-kick inches wide. In their next attack, the home side were awarded a penalty as Griffin was fouled in the box as a cross came in. Quigley, who scored from the spot in the last meeting of these sides, stood up and coolly finished to the net for his tenth league goal of the season. With Dundalk now well on top, they looked for a second, with Greg Bolger trying his luck from range but his shot was deflected over. Just before the half-hour mark, it should have been 2-0 as Griffin and Quigley linked up, the latter finding a way through on goal but with just his namesake Darren to beat, he shot inches wide. That miss could have proved costly moments later as Bray attacked and had shouts for a penalty when Hawkins tackled Kelly just inside the box, but referee Dave McKeon indicated that the defender won the ball.
On 36 minutes, Griffin made space for himself outside the box and shot but his effort was blocked by the face of a Bray defender, before Conor Murphy was booked at the other end for simulation. Moments later, Dundalk had another big chance to double their advantage but after Maher played in Griffin the young striker was denied by a brilliant save from the Bray No1 whose foot blocked the shot. Bray threatened from a couple of free-kicks, the first well gathered by Cherrie and the second going behind. Carl McHugh then attacked a Ross Gaynor corner but couldn’t connect. Dundalk were stunned on the stroke of half-time as Zambra’s hopeful ball into the box was poked home by Danny O’Connor from eight-yards, the Bray captain pulling his side level with the last kick of the first half.
Bray, like the opening period, began the second half brighter and they shocked the home crowd when they took the lead on 52 minutes as Zambra glanced Kelly’s superb cross from the right to the bottom corner. However, within 60 seconds, Dundalk were back on level terms as Simon Madden’s ball over the top was latched onto by Quigley who chipped to the net, a neat finish as Foster’s side responded quickly. Just past the hour, Griffin controlled well in the box but his shot was blocked en-route to goal. On 76 minutes, Bolger’s cross was met by the slightest of touches from Quigley and it was taking the ball into the bottom corner only for the Bray ‘keeper to produce a fantastic save to push around the post. Substitute Byrne then headed wide from the corner. On 82 minutes, Nathan Murphy produced an inch-perfect tackle to deny Kelly as he broke through, with Dundalk unable to then find a winner, despite five minutes of injury-time.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden ©, Colin Hawkins, Carl McHugh, Nathan Murphy (Dean Bennett 86); Daniel Kearns, Stephen Maher (Keith Ward 63), Greg Bolger, Ross Gaynor; Mark Quigley, Mark Griffin (Jason Byrne 74).
Unused Subs: Paul Murphy (GK), Johnny Breen, Philip Duffy.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Shane O’Connor, Adam Mitchell, Derek Prendergast, Seán Houston; Dean Zambra, Daire Doyle, Danny O’Connor © (Shane O’Neill 85), Chris Shields; Jake Kelly, Conor Murphy (John Mulroy 79).
Unused Subs: Brian Kane (GK), David Webster, Dane Massey, Kevin Knight, Dan McGuinness.
Bookings: S O'Connor (14), C Murphy (38).
Referee: Dave McKeon (Dublin).
Report courtesy of http://www.dundalkfc.com and Keith Wallace